Essential founder and CEO Andy Rubin has taken a leave of absence from his new company for “personal reasons” following a report on the circumstances of his 2014 departure from Google. According to The Information, Rubin left Google shortly after an investigation found that he had maintained an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman who worked under him and filed a complaint to HR.
The nature of that relationship isn’t detailed in the report, and Rubin’s spokesperson Mike Sitrick denies the connection. “Any relationship that Mr. Rubin had while at Google was consensual,” Sitrick tells The Information. “Mr. Rubin was never told by Google that he engaged in any misconduct while at Google and he did not, either while at Google or since.” Rubin is said to have told Essential employees of his leave of absence on Monday after The Information informed Sitrick of its story.
The woman who filed the complaint reportedly worked in the Android division run by Rubin, which would make any personal relationship between the two violate Google policy; the company requires employees to disclose such relationships so that one of them can be moved to another division. Rubin left the Android department in March 2013 to lead Google’s efforts in robotics, but the HR investigation is said to have taken place in 2014. That investigation, according to The Information, concluded that “Rubin’s behavior was improper and showed bad judgement.”
Rubin founded Danger, the company behind the T-Mobile Sidekick, and co-founded Android before it was bought out by Google. Essential, his new company, is an attempt to build out an ecosystem of premium hardware products, but its first launch appears to have been a flop — the otherwise well-received Essential Phone has seen heavy discounts in recent weeks.
Essential confirmed that Rubin had stepped aside and said that Niccolo de Masi, Essential’s president, would be in charge for the time being. “At our last regularly scheduled board meeting earlier in November, Andy asked for a leave of absence to deal with personal matters,” an Essential spokesperson said. “The Board agreed and our President, Niccolo de Masi, will continue to run day to day operations at Essential.”
Update November 29th, 11:38AM ET: This story has been updated with comment from Essential.